Gas prices could increase as much as 20 cents per gallon as weather shutters Texas oil refineries

The national average for gas prices could rise as much as 10 to 20 cents per gallon in the coming weeks as a result of the "extreme cold shutting millions of barrels per day in refinery capacity" in Texas, according to GasBuddy's head of petroleum analysis Patrick De Haan.

"How much we ultimately see will depend on how quickly or slowly the affected refineries can get back online," De Haan told FOX Business. "In addition, continued improvement in the COVID-19 pandemic will also likely continue to help propel demand to recovery."

DeHaan's data reveals that gas prices in the United States have risen for the sixth straight week, with the national average gaining 2.6 cents per gallon over the last week to $2.50 per gallon as of Tuesday. The national average price of diesel has soared 7.2 cents in the last week and stands at $2.68 per gallon.

GasBuddy's data is compiled from more than 11 million individual price reports covering over 150,000 gas stations across the country.

Part of the reason for the increase in prices according to De Haan is "improving demand in the United States," and noted that the increase has "nothing to do with who sits in the White House, but rather how many motorists are filling their tanks on a daily basis."

"This situation will last as long as OPEC continues to restrain their oil production, creating the situation we’re in where demand is recovering faster than supply," he added. "The situation won’t get better- just wait until spring- it’s likely the national average will rise another 10 to as much as 50 cents per gallon if oil production doesn’t respond to the continued recovery in demand."

Gasbuddy data points to crude oil prices surging 15% over the past two weeks. A barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude oil rallying to as high as $60.55 per barrel during Monday's trading session, up from $57.44 last Monday and up 15% from $52.68 two weeks ago. Brent crude also rallied at $63.11 per barrel early Monday, up from $59.93 a week ago.

Prices continued to climb on Tuesday, with West Texas Intermediate crude oil rising rose 58 cents, or 1%, to settle at $60.05. Natural gas climbed 22 cents, or nearly 7.5% -- due in no small part to the freezing temperatures that have slammed the country from the Ohio Valley to the Gulf Coast.

Feb.10 report from the Energy Information Administration found a 6.6 million barrel decline in crude oil inventories, while gasoline inventories jumped some 4.3 million barrels.

According to GasBuddy, oil inventories now stand just 2% higher than the five-year average for this time of year while gasoline inventories are at holding the five-year average, but below levels from a year ago. Distillate inventories fell by 1.7 million barrels but remain at a healthy 7% above the five-year average.

The company's report also noted that refiners raised output last week, with utilization up 0.7% percent to 83% of capacity. Implied gasoline demand also rose to nearly 90,000 barrels.

GasBuddy's latest gasoline demand figures show national demand rose 1.90% for the week ending February 13. East Coast demand rose 3.41%, while demand in the Midwest was plus 0.95%, the Gulf Coast was up 0.85%, the Rocky Mountain region a whopping 3.52% and the  West Coast saw an uptick of 1.70%.

GasBuddy data showed that the East Coast likely saw a recovery in gasoline demand due to "the previous week’s decline as a major snow event hindered free travel in the region."

The most common U.S. gas price encountered by motorists rose 10 cents per gallon to $2.39 per gallon, according to the fuel app and website's data. The median U.S. price is $2.41 per gallon, up 3 cents from last week and about 9 cents lower than the national average.

The states with the lowest average prices include Mississippi ($2.15), Louisiana ($2.17) and Texas ($2.19), while the highest-priced states were California ($3.45), Hawaii ($3.31)  and Washington ($2.87).

Fox Business' Jonathan Garber contributed to this report


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